Roughly 60 percent of our body composition is water. This essential component of body fluid aids digestion and circulation, helps maintain body temperature, and transports vital nutrients throughout the body. While there is no scientific evidence to back up the age-old advice of drinking as many as eight glasses of water a day, exercise scientist Nicholas Tam emphasises that we do need to replace the fluids that are used up due to normal body functions.
"During the day, fluid is lost via sweating, urination, defecation and breathing," says Tam. "Our bodies have amazing regulatory properties, and any disturbances in the concentration of water in the blood will result in a thirst for water or, alternately, urination to dispose of the excess."
The following signs are a clear message from your body to you that it’s in need of some hydration.
The first – and most obvious – sign of needing hydration is thirst. Thirst will most likely be accompanied by a dry, sticky feeling in the mouth and possibly a slight swelling of the tongue as well.
The advice here is to drink enough water or liquid to quench your thirst. A good rule of thumb is to not drink that much water that you feel overfull from it. Dr Caroline D’Alton, GP and sports and exercise medicine specialist, advises her older patients or those taking diuretic medication to drink five glasses of water a day, especially if they drink caffeine-containing teas and coffee as these act as diuretics.
2. Lack of urination or dark yellow urine
Normally, adults will urinate between four and seven times a day. Urinating is your body’s way of getting rid of water-soluble waste via the kidneys. When your body’s intake of fluids is adequate, urine will flow freely, and be light yellow in colour.
When you’re not taking in enough fluid your urine will be dark yellow and have a strong odour, as the kidneys expel the waste and retain more fluid for the body to use.
Fluid intake is also good for your gastrointestinal tract; when you’re not taking in enough, the colon absorbs liquid from the stools to retain for hydration, and the result is constipation.
Topping up with adequate fluids also aids concentration and helps relieve feelings of fatigue, so if you need a quick energy boost opt for water rather than a caffeinated beverage – it might just provide the wake-up call your body needs.
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